SOBE 2011 Wine & Food Festival
If you’re one of the many fortunate souls who find themselves in South Florida in the waning days of February, you’re not only grateful for the weather (beautiful), you are also fortunate to be situated in the food Mecca (for four days at least) located in the epicenter of the culinary festival world: The South Beach Food & Wine Festival.
Which is where we found ourselves the weekend of February 26-27. The SBF&WF has become our February ritual, a “stay-cation” weekend we’ve looked forward to for the past four years. Knowing full and well just how crowded an event like this can be, we drove down to Miami Beach early Saturday morning in hopes of finding suitable parking near our accommodations, the Cardozo Hotel, which is located at 13th and Ocean Drive, just across street from the festival.
Entering the Tents to Pick Up Glasses
No such luck. We had to double back along Collins and park in a monolithic parking structure between sixth and seventh avenues, a good six blocks from our destination. We parked the car and made the trek along the sun-baked Miami street, checking out many of the designer fashion and schlock stores catering to fat-wallet tourists. We arrived at the hotel but our room wasn’t ready, but the friendly front desk attendant told us she would have our bags put aside until later that day when we were ready to check in. Then, it was on to the show.
We could already taste that first welcoming sample of wine being poured as we received complimentary culinary and wine magazines (to pawn off on family and friends after reading) swag bags (a bit lighter in freebies than last year), wine glasses (Waterford) and, wait for it—no lanyards! Huh? Say that again SBF&WF student greeter? Did you say NO lanyards? We can do with less food, less wine, less anything at this event, except we simply cannot function without our beloved wine lanyards. Events like this make you wish you had four arms, but the wine lanyard, so simple and elegant in its design, an accessory item valued at less than in this writer’s estimation, simply is an indispensable “pseudo limb” for the serious samplers because it frees up your wine glass hand so you can eat, sip, Tweet, update your Facebook status, call your friends and gloat about where you are, what you’re doing, who you saw, who you wish you saw, etc.
Yeah, we get that it may be rather lame to actually wear the lanyard but it is handy. Later on in the day we found out that the show planners stopped distributing lanyards due to a widespread design flaw, a fatal defect in which part of the plastic that wraps around the stem could break and thus, cause the would-be wearer to lose precious liquids and/or stain their designer shirt.
But we soldiered on, lanyards or no lanyards. The weather this particular Saturday was quite simply amazing, low 80s, dry and sunny, with a slight breeze coming off the ocean—perfect conditions for eating and drinking to excess. We noticed that similar to years past show planners strategically set up water stations all around the event, with distributors at each one gently reminding everyone to stay hydrated—which we did. Chef Rick Bayless was giving a cooking seminar in the first kitchen station tent located close by the front entrance, so we stopped for a moment to check out what this very talented chef (and Top Chef Masters winner) was preparing for the large, eager audience seated there.
A first at this year’s event was a cleverly designed two-story Cosmopolitan Lounge set up between tents. On the bottom floor was a small bar where bartenders mixed drinks and a chef prepared burgers and small appetizers. We waited briefly to check out the upstairs patio deck lounge (due to weight restrictions, only six people at a time). After being presented with cool towels we made our way to the second floor where we enjoyed our drinks and took in the incredible 360 degree view of the event, Miami Beach as well as Ocean Drive.
View from Cosmopolitan Deck
The rest of the afternoon we leisurely made our way through the Grand Tasting tents (each of which is a football field in length). We both took note and agreed that with so many culinary delights and wines available we would have to rank them in the order of “must try,” “looks interesting” and “if we’re not full and can make room.” Some of the more memorable wines we enjoyed during this year’s event:
Bondi Santi Brunello
Grich Hills Fume Blanc
Rosenblum Monte Rosso Reserve
Wild Horse Unbridled Pinot Noir
There is that point when even the heartiest appetites will be filled; when the mere thought of stuffing or cramming another bite-sized morsel into an already full stomach is just unbearable. It’s the point when you can’t tell a Cabernet from a Yellow Cab, or that Pinot Grigio tastes strangely like the Chardonnay we tried two tables down, which oddly mimics the Sauvignon Blanc next to that one, using the same glass we may or may not have sampled a beer with.
Yes, we had reached that point—and then some. To eat or drink anything else at that point (besides the occasional sip of water) would have been a lesson in gluttony we didn’t want to learn. As good as it all is, you have to stop at some point, unfortunately. So, with the sun setting it was time to leave the friendly confines of the Grand Tasting tents and meander through the grassy dunes to make our way back to the hotel. Thanks, South Beach Food & Wine Festival, for putting our food and spirit consumption level to the test—again.